Alvinston beekeepers still buzzing despite significant colony losses

A beekeeper with Alvinston's Munro Honey and Meadery checks on the honeybee hives. Submitted photo.

The owners of Munro Honey and Meadery have vowed to keep the business going, despite losing approximately half of their 2,600 honeybee colonies this spring.

Davis and John Bryans — fifth generation owners of the commercial beekeeping business in southeast Lambton County — discovered thousands of dead honeybees when they opened up their hives this year.

In an interview with Sarnia News Today, Davis Bryans said a tiny parasite called the varroa mite was to blame.

“These mites have been around since the early 90s and we’ve been able to keep it under control for all these years, but last year it kind of got away on everybody,” he said. “We’re not sure what exactly it was that made these pests increase to the point where they killed off a number of hives across Canada.”

Bryans estimates about half of their honeybee colonies were wiped out.

“We’re estimating 50 per cent, which is kind of middle of the road. We’ve heard as many as 90 per cent to 100 per cent in some areas. So, it’s pretty devastating. It’s going to really impact pollination for blueberries and orchards and field crops this year.”

Bryans said there’s a big demand for bees to pollinate crops and they also assist with pumpkin, melon, squash and canola pollination.

“We don’t put every hive into pollination. We have to have some for our honey flow. So, we have to keep that in permanent locations. So, we can take some of those bees out of those permanent locations to help do the pollination, but pollination is going to have to get a lot more expensive to make this work out for everybody.”

Davis (left) and John Bryans. Owners of Munro Honey and Meadery in Alvinston. Submitted photo.

Davis (left) and John Bryans. Owners of Munro Honey and Meadery in Alvinston. Submitted photo.

Munro Honey hives can be found across Lambton, Chatham-Kent, Middlesex and Huron Counties.

“We spread out, so if the weather’s not good in one area, then it might be good in another area,” Bryans said. “We have bees in Chatham, we have bees over around Glencoe, up the other side of Exeter we have bees. We have quite a wide area. But it didn’t seem to matter where they were, they got impacted last year.”

Bryans said honey production will be impacted as they try to regenerate the colonies.

“You can’t make bees and a honey crop all in one year. So, it’s going to be very interesting for the next couple of years how things go.”

Bryans said last year was a short crop, so while they have a decent supply of honey on hand it’s starting to run low.

“We’re hoping to get an early flow of some honey to keep us going,” he said. “This business has been going since 1913 in the Alvinston area. I’d hate to be the one that let it fall apart.”

Munro’s beekeepers harvest the honey from July to September.

The Ontario Beekeepers’ Association (OBA) launched a winter loss survey in March.

The OBA said the information would provide insight for the industry and help direct their strategies moving forward.